Iowa Public Television


Traders turn to Twitter for market insight

posted on August 5, 2011

One day after the massive sell-off on Wall Street, Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney posted the following on a social media site.  Romney tweeted "When you see what this president has done to the economy in 3 years, you know why America doesn't want to find out what he can do in 8."

Within minutes, the press secretary of the Democratic National Committee posted a graphic revealing 17 consecutive months of positive job growth and tweeted: "facts are stubborn things."    

Meanwhile Newt Gingrich faced accusations this week that the vast majority of his twitter followers are fake.  The Gingrich campaign, of course, adamantly refuted that claim, and tweeted, "Newt Gingrich's 1.3 million followers are legitimate."   

The skirmishes vividly illustrate just how high the stakes have become in cyberspace.  According to Twitter, 200 million tweets are posted everyday on its site... up 325 percent in the past year.  And as Paul Yeager discovered this week, mud isn't the only thing being slung in social media.   

Tom Grisafi, Indiana Grain Company: “I actually went to get a drink of water and wheat went from up 6 to up 26 in one trade.”

Tom Grisafi is no stranger to futures markets.  A former floor trader, he currently serves as the President and CEO of the Indiana Grain Company.  Despite his membership in multiple exchanges in New York and Chicago, you won't often find him trading on LaSalle Street. 

Instead, Grisafi hunkers down at home... in a "basement bunker" of sorts, furnished with a dizzying array of TV screens, and computer monitors.  This week though, a speaking engagement in Iowa required his RV to serve as the center of his trading universe.  

The mobile setting is particularly appropriate for Grisafi, who says social media -- particularly Twitter -- often influences his trading decisions as fundamental crop data moves from the field to the phone. 

Tom Grisafi, President & CEO, Indiana Grain Company: “Twitter has taken a real active role with the onset of all the mobile devices, iPad, iPhones, blackberry’s, staying connected. Everyone who has a mobile device has become a reporter in whatever interest whether it is sports or markets. How’s a crop progressing. Someone could be out in a field, certain field they’re in and how is the condition of that crop is, or where the weather is, in the particular area they’re at."

Despite its trendy moniker, Twitter is quickly becoming a social media phenomenon.  Over the past year alone, the number of reports -- or "tweets" -- filed in cyber space grew to 200 million a day, up more than 400 percent from 2010.   

But getting an accurate reading on the number of people using Twitter is sketchy.  Some, known as "lurkers" merely read the information and don't interact with others in the twittersphere.  And no one really knows for sure how many people with specific farm and agribusiness interests are using Twitter.  But one thing is certain: Social media is becoming a significant factor in trading. 

Tom Grisafi, President & CEO, Indiana Grain Company: “If corn is up tonight, then there must be only a crop of 12.5 and zero carryout. If corn continues to go with outside pressure... Our stock market literally is collapsing in front of you.”

Grisafi spoke this week to a group of producers under the age of 35 at an event called NextGen.  The initiative brings future leaders together to gather information on topics that will have an impact on their business and to network with peers and industry experts. NextGen is sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a major underwtiter of Market to Market. 

NextGen class members examined some of Grisafi’s marketing strategies and heard about one investment he claims is essential to a healthy bottom line. 

Tom Grisafi, President & CEO, Indiana Grain Company:  “Does anyone here spend a lot on computers? Multiple monitors? Screens? Anyone spend a lot on a tractor? Couple hundred thousand? Everyone? Combine? Not sure what to say. It’s just a talking point, but for my business, my combines and tractors are these computers.”

While they represent an emerging trend, some farmers are embracing Twitter. Their postings often include pictures of their crop’s progress. Some have a significant number of followers.  And Grisafi claims data he gleans from social media reliable. 

Tom Grisafi, President & CEO, Indiana Grain Company:  “As long as you are reading a credible source on Twitter. Of course, there’s always people who could be not legit, maybe lacking integrity, but you figure that out quickly.”

During its session on social media, the NextGen group also heard from Greg Vincent, editor of Farm Journal Media and AgWeb.  Vincent says Facebook helps drive traffic to the AgWeb site, and noted that  tweets also are telling a story.

Greg Vincent: Farm Journal Media, Editor AgWeb:  “We’re starting to see more people engaged in the social media, probably through a couple of avenues, one is for information sharing, also there’s a big advocacy movement right now too where farmers and ranchers promoting agriculture and helping people understand what they do.”

One way producers embrace social media is through a weekly Twitter conversation called AgChat, which brings together a group more than 10-thousand strong.

Greg Vincent, Editor, AgWeb: "When you talk about a farmer perspective in how they can use social media, it’s a way for them to communicate what they do."

Market to Market is part of the conversation as well through our Twitter feed: –at- MarketToMarket and on Facebook.  So "tweet" us your questions and comments here and help shape the content of the "Weekly Journal of Rural America." 

For Market to Market, I'm Paul Yeager. 



Tags: agriculture cell phones commodity prices Internet markets news social media technology trade Twitter